The Last Mountain Man-chapter 6

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 28, 2007

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 28, 2007



Chapter VI

Joe Nichols cursed the rough road to the fire station. He cursed the rough riding Jeep of the forestry department. Finally, he cursed his boss, who had called him a couple of hours back and ordered him up to the station. Only the knowledge of the bank robbery and the hostages taken had decided him to come on up this evening. His boss had told him wait until the morning, but knowing those girls were out here on the mountain somewhere brought the "Galihad" out in the young man.

His mind filtered through the information, the head ranger had told him. Of course the bank robbery, the taking of the hostage at the bank, then he told him about the girls. One of the highway patrolmen had recognized the van by it’s description on the wire, but by the time he’d realized the van they had met was the one in question, it had already disappeared. He passed the park road twice before turning down it. He had been the one to find Micheal Gamble and the empty bus.

In a matter of minutes, they knew the bus was loaded with six girls and their chaperone. It could only be assumed the robbers had come upon the stranded girls and thinking they may need more hostages had taken them with them. They were now having the park road searched, but again, the road had many roads forking it and each of these had a life of several miles, some even going back to the highway.

The van hadn’t been sighted since the patrolman, but that didn’t mean they robbers didn’t backtrack on one of the side roads and was now in Silverton or even Boulder. There was even a theory they may have had another vehicle hidden on one of the roads and had switched vehicles.

Suddenly, the young ranger thought of it. The hole! What better place to get rid of an unwanted vehicle. Though the rangers patrolled the area pretty close, the hole was little visited and seldom checked.

A person could hide a car up at the hole for two or three days before discovery.

He grabbed the mike. It was information someone may not have thought of and it could be a feather in the ranger’s cap. Again he cursed as the radio waves failed to summit the high surrounding mountains. Edging the accelerator a bit, he took the next rough spot faster. This was an idea that needed to be passed on and the station was the closest place to pass it.

Josh Brodin was another that had tired of his job in the twenty-three years he had given the F.B.I. There was a sneaky rumor, he was next in line for district head up in Denver, but that’s all it was, a rumor.

The man in that position was good at his job and didn’t seem to have the desire to retire any time soon.

Josh had gotten the call about the robbery minutes after the fact, but it had taken several hours for him to arrive in town. The previous night he sat in a little "flea bag" motel room and went over the information brought to light so far. The next morning the only thing he knew for certain, the local city chief of police was glad when he arrived. The taking of one of his patrolmen’s life was telling on the man.

Stepping outside, he looked up into the clear crisp morning sky. He was going to retire after this one, he thought. He was just too burned out. He was going to go find him a mountain, he told himself. His eyes rimmed the caps of the mountains that surrounded the town. He had quite a few to choose from.

Locking the door behind him, he stepped out onto the street and walked the four blocks to a small café, he had noticed the previous night. As he stepped inside he smiled at the offer of coffee. Sitting in a booth near the rear of the room, he thanked the waitress and promised to order breakfast soon when she brought his coffee forward.

Sipping the hot, ebon fluid, his ears caught the conversation of two old men sitting in a booth next to him. One of these days, he told himself. One of these days he wasn’t going to have anything to do but sit around a coffee shop somewhere and tell tales of his past with one of his buddies that had decided to do the same thing.

‘I tell you, I knew it was going to happen one of these days." One of the old men was saying.

"I’ve said all along that bank was too easy. Back in Pretty Boy’s or Dillenger’s day that bank wouldn’t last long, not long at all."

Not saying anything and hoping the two wouldn’t catch him eavesdropping, Josh listened with a closer ear.

"And I’ll tell you something else," the old man’s tone was one of a mono-symbol, the pitch of his voice never raised or lowered, but stayed constant through out his little tirade. "I bet if the facts were known Sam Cade has got something to do with that robbery.. His grandpap, now, and his pa too, was the salt of the earth. If Ethan or Paul Cade told you something you could believe it. Many a times my pa fell on hard times and that bank saw him through it. Now, I bet you if I was to get a month behind in my note, that Sam Cade would own my place."

Josh remained silent as the old man droned on with his opinion of the convicts escaping and the weather and the widow of Marsh Edwards. "That gal’s a filly now. I bet you she married old Marsh for his money. How old was he when he died, eighty-two and she can’t be a day over seventy."

The agent about spilled his coffee on that one. Not often you got to see a seventy year old filly.

"Where you from young fella?"

It took Josh a moment to realize the man was talking to him. "I’m sorry, were you talking to me?"

"Sure was, are you in here cause of that robbery?"

The agent nodded and identified himself, "Federal money is involved."

"Well, if you’re any good you’ll catch those boogers. If old Fred Winston was still sheriff, wouldn’t be no time til those robbers be rounded up, but old Fred’s dead and gone now." the old man’s eyes turned sad, "You know, most of the good ones are dead and gone."

Not knowing how to answer the man, Josh’s eyes turned to the other’s partner. He wondered why the man hadn’t said anything at all. He got his answer, the man was asleep. The agent turned his head away and smiled. The first one had put the other to sleep with the drone of his voice.

Signaling the waitress, he made his order. As quick as he’d made the agent realize he’d been noticed, the oldster ignored him, directing his drone back to his sleeping partner.

The agent’s cell phone began to vibrate on his hip. Pulling it from it’s own holster, he answered, identifying himself. He could tell the old man was taking his turn at eavesdropping as he spoke into the receiver. "The hole? Where’s that? Can that ranger go back down and check it out? Fine. Give him my cell phone number and tell him if he finds anything to call me. What? Can’t get out? The mountains? Oh, o.k., just tell him I’ll meet him there in an hour. Fine, talk to you later."

Half dreading what he was about to do, the agent still asked the old man if he knew where "the hole" was.

"The hole? Sure I know where the hole is. It’s back out behind that state park out of town a ways. In fact it was old Fred Winston who discovered the hole back in his younger days." The old man cast his eyes to the sleeping form. "You remember old Fred Winston, don’t you Henry. Used to be sheriff here a bouts. Now I’ll tell you, if he was still around he’d already rounded up those robbers."

josh  rose from his seat and thanked the man for his information. "You bet young fellow, any time." Josh paid the tab for his uneaten breakfast and asked the waitress the same question he had the old man.

Getting the desired answer, he left for the motel and his car.

Shivering in the cool mist of the morning, Shawna finally gave up her wait and started feeling her way down the bluff. She hadn’t gone far before the animal trail widened and became not as steep. Within minutes, she stood at the bluff’s bottom.

Now which way? She wanted to stay as close to the road as possible so she could climb back out when the bluff gave her the chance. Hadn’t she seen another road veering away a mile or two back. She knew she had. The sign had said something about a fire station. Maybe there was someone there. Maybe that is where the vehicle, she’d heard the previous night, was headed. Yeah and maybe the Pope wasn’t Catholic either.

The water of the small creek at the bottom of the bluff chilled her feet as it soaked through her tennis shoes. There was no other way to go so she waded the frigid water for close to a hundred yards, Finally, the bank widened. Keeping on the same side as the bluff, she thankfully stepped from the water. Though the way was easier, she still saw no way to gain access to the road above her. "There has to be a way," she told herself as she trod the creek bank. "There has to be."

Joe Nichols drank the last of the coffee while he waited for his boss to get back with him. He eyed the majestic mountains that wrapped this land. Being from the flat lands of Mississippi and Louisiana He had never seen what real mountains looked like, this side of a picture until the forestry department had transferred him to this country. Now the young man knew he would always be here even if it meant leaving the department in lieu of another transfer.

Below the station a doe and her fawn were out in the opening feeding on the rich grass.

At the edge of the trees, he caught glimpse of yet another. Again his eyes roamed the rims of the mountains. He couldn’t see "old Baldy" because of a heavy cloud had settled over the mountain’s crest. "God, this country was beautiful." he thought. The radio came to life, catching him off guard.

Joe didn’t know why he felt guilty as he leaped for the receiver. He guessed he was just caught off guard. "Fire Station 14." The head ranger’s voice was crisp as he told Joe what the agent wanted of him.

The young ranger listened with no interruptions and finally responded, "copy that, 14 out."

The hunger the large cat felt, infuriated it. It had lost the human spoor. The beast raised it’s head and tested the air. The female was in her "time", a weak musky odor reached the sensitive hairs that reacted the cat’s sense of smell. Excitement washed through the cat’s body, It rushed into the stream and loped uphill, following the musky odor.

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